Monday, March 31, 2008

moscow - trip 2 - day 3

I slept much better last night than I did the first night of our first trip. We like our apartment on the Smolenskaya Embankment. It is much more comfortable.

Last night and this morning, R enjoyed watching bicycle track racing on the Satellite TV. The commentary was all in Russian, but that didn’t matter! Track racing is not shown on TV in the US, so this was an added treat for him!

This morning, we left the apartment a few minutes before 10:00am. We held hands and said a prayer in the elevator on the way down. The elevator is unbelievably small, and only holds 2 people. Not for the claustrophobic! Katia and Anton picked us up at 10:00am. After we had gone a few blocks, R realized that he had left his passport holder in the apartment. This was not good, because it contained all our money, and his passport. (You have to have your passport and migration card on you at all times in Russia.) He asked Anton to go back, and he retrieved it quickly. Then we got back on the road to Kolomna. Traffic was heavier than expected this morning. Usually traffic on Mondays is heavy, but not this heavy. This was more like Friday traffic, for some unknown reason. It took us an hour just to get to the M5.

After 2 hours, we arrived in Kolomna. The landscape was different this time. Last time we were here, everything was snow covered. Now that temperatures have been in the upper 40’s, most of the snow has melted. Even though it was above freezing, there were still some small snow patches, and ponds were still almost completely frozen over. I took some video of the town on the way to the orphanage to show Eli later. We were blessed with good weather today. The sun was out, and it was almost 50 degrees.

When we arrived, we went to the music room where we have visited with him each time. We waited a few minutes, and the caregiver brought him down in a stroller. She wheeled him in, and he looked right at us. I bent down and said “Look who it is. It’s our sweet baby!” and he smiled! So I think he remembered us! I picked him up out of the stroller, and he went right to me with no hesitation. It felt so good to hold him again! After Katia and the caregiver left the room, he cried just a tiny bit. I don’t think it was because they left, because he wasn’t even looking toward the door. I think it was because he was confused. We talked to him in a soft voice, and explained what was happening, and how we would be back in 2 weeks to take him with us, and shortly after that, he calmed down. We sat on the floor, with his Touch and Feel Farm book first. He watches and really concentrates. He follows the movement of our hands. After we read the book a few times, and he petted all the animals, he would try to pick up the book and throw it (sort of). He liked beating on it too, which was cute! Then we played with the soft book that Stephanie sent, which he liked. We played with that for a while. Since he liked that, I think he’ll really like the Whoozit!

He crawled a few times. If I held my arms out and encouraged him, he would crawl to me, and he seemed to like that, but he really didn’t want much time to just roam around. Just like before, he just wanted me to hold him while he sucked his thumb. Toward the end of our visit, R. held him. While he was sitting in R.’s lap sucking his thumb, R. talked to him about track racing and fixed gear bikes, and he listened very intently! From time to time, he would look up, look us directly in the face, and make eye contact, and I think that is a very good sign.

When R. was holding him, and he was sucking his thumb, I pretended to eat his little baby feet, and he laughed! He would stick his little foot back out for me to do it again. So adorable!

Just like before, he fell asleep while R was holding him. R passed him to me, and he never woke up. He was out, with the thumb in his mouth. So precious. We had a little over 2 hours with him, so that was a good visit.

He seemed to have grown, but not that much really. Just a little. His crawling seemed the same. He seemed a little more stable sitting up. He had a small bruise on his right temple, probably from toppling over. It was right in the spot where his head touches the floor when he loses balance. Still, I hated to see it.

There was another new development, and not a good one. At one point, he was sitting on the floor beside me, and he was starting to get tired. He put his thumb in his mouth and starting rocking back and forth. I picked him up immediately, and he snuggled in, with his head on my shoulder. I asked R if he saw it, and he noticed it immediately too. Only 2 more weeks, and then I can rock him as much as he wants!

We are counting the days until he can be with us forever!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

photos from day 2

R washing dishes after dinner


the Moscow River at sunset (and the Ukraina hotel) as seen from our kitchen window


our kitchen window

moscow - trip 2 - day 2

Here we are, back in Moscow again! We just arrived at our apartment, and we're relaxing, while watching the Russian version of "What Not to Wear"!

We've had a great trip so far. Yesterday morning, our drive to the Atlanta airport was fine. We listened to the radio and enjoyed our time in the car together. Traffic wasn't too heavy. We saw Lisa at the gate. She arrived right shortly before we boarded, and we enjoyed talking to her for a minute.

Our flight was on time, and didn't seem as long as it did on our first trip over. We slept some, but not enough. My legs are just too long! I just can't get comfortable enough in that tiny space to really sleep well. The couple sitting behind us was also adopting with our agency. They are from NC. I really enjoyed talking to them. We traded email addresses, so we can keep in touch.

We did not feel anxiety this time. Knowing what to expect when we arrived made all the difference. When we landed, I felt full of God's peace. We didn't have to wait long at Passport Control, and were waived through customs, so that went very smoothly. When we walked around the corner, there was Katia waiting for us. It was so good to see her again.

When we left the airport, it was warm and sunny. Beautiful Moscow weather. Anton is our driver again this time, and we're happy about that too. We drove through the city, and there was no snow this time. We stopped at a small grocery store, and we got bread, cheese, ham (of course R has to make more sandwiches!), milk, and water.

Then we arrived at our apartment. We're in a older building, built right after WWII. Great architecture. I'll be taking pictures later when I'm not so tired! We like this apartment much better than the one we had on the first trip. A cosmonaut lived in this building, so it is historic, with a plaque in front. Also writers, artists, and grandchildren of Communist Party officials have lived in this building. We have a fantastic view of the Moscow River.

Now we're going to take a nap before we do anything else. We're feeling the jet lag! We'll be going to Kolomna to see our sweet Eli on Monday and Tuesday, and we're very excited about seeing him again tomorrow!

Friday, March 28, 2008

back to moscow

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped." -- Psalms 28:7

Tomorrow morning, we leave at 7:00am to drive to the Atlanta airport. Tomorrow afternoon, we will be on our way to back to Moscow for our 2nd trip. We are so excited about seeing our Eli again! I can't wait to give him lots of hugs and kisses.

We have court on Wed. 4/2. We are a little nervous, but we believe God will take care of us, as He has in each step of this process. Please pray that things go smoothly and that the judge will allow Eli to become our son.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

court prep

My sister is a wonderful hair stylist. Today I went to her salon, and she touched up my hair color, so now I have good hair for court! No more grey roots! Then I had lunch with her, my mom, and my sister G., and it was wonderful to have some time with them right before we leave.

We have been preparing for court for the last 2 days. We reviewed the section in the Russian Adoption Handbook on the foreign court appearance. We read the info on FRUA. We've discussed the possible questions we could be asked, and how we would answer them. R read over our home study, and I'll review it in the next day or two. We feel like we'll be ready when the time comes. And most importantly, before court, we'll pray for God's guidance, for Him to give us the right words to answer the judge's questions.

One week from today, court will be over, and hopefully, we will officially be Eli's parents!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

packing and more packing

The packing is now 99% done! Everything is crammed in there, except for the last minute items to throw in the carry-on. We're taking the same 2 bags we took on the 1st trip, a 25" wheeled duffel and a 19" suitcase. We have food, clothes, a few toys for Eli, some of our gifts, and our orphanage donation.

We got some fabulous moccasins from Hanna Andersson to take. Katia had told us they needed shoes, and when we saw Eli wearing booties that were too small, we were more than convinced! These moccasins have soft leather soles and sock tops, so they wouldn't hinder a baby learning to walk. They also fit a range of sizes, so babies could wear them longer. And they weren't made in China, which was very hard to find. I hope that the orphanage director likes them.


I can't believe we're going in just a few days, and in less than a week, I'll be giving my Snuggle Bunny lots of hugs and kisses!

Monday, March 24, 2008

court photos

I finished taking the photos for court today. I already had a photo of Eli's room in the photo album, but after I worked in his room, it just looked so cute. I decided I wanted a more recent picture to show the judge. Normally, I order my photos from Shutterfly, but since we're leaving on Saturday, my sister A. had a great idea. I uploaded the photos to Walgreen's, and we can pick them up later this afternoon. Love the technology!



This shows his toy box and the adorable kangaroo that my sister brought. Both belonged to my nephew. The kangaroo is full of colorful wooden blocks, and Eli can push it once he learns to walk. My nephew really loved it, and pushed it all over the house.


Inside the toy box. I still have some toys upstairs in his room to put in here later.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

1 week/month

Counting down the days...1 week until we leave for Moscow again, and 1 month until we bring our sweet Eli home!

bad dreams

I had bad dreams last night. I dreamed that we really overslept. I was hurrying and rushing around, trying to get everything together and get out the door, but I wasn't able to. There wasn't time for us to drive to Atlanta and catch the flight to Moscow. Then I dreamed I got online, and tried to change our flight to the next day, so we could still make it to Moscow in time for court. I dreamed when I finally found a flight, it was $9000, and we couldn't afford it! Thankfully, that's when I woke up, and realized we aren't leaving for another week!

I do seem to have more anxiety about this trip than I had about the first one. I think that's because I'm really dreading having to leave my son again. I'm excited about seeing him again, but I hate that we have to leave him again. I know he doesn't understand, and I'm sure it's confusing for him, and it's definitely very hard for me. I wish we could skip the 2nd trip, and just go straight to the 3rd trip, when we'll take him out of the orphanage and have him with us forever.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

serious nesting

I have really been in the nesting phase for the last 2 days! I've been working in Eli's room. I unpacked all the fabulous toys my sister M. brought and got them organized. We have a lot of things here in the house now that belonged to my nephew, and I really love that. There are such happy memories from seeing N. playing with those toys, wearing those precious outfits, and sleeping in that crib.

I ironed the comforter cover she brought, and put it on the twin bed in his room. R. took the crib (still in pieces, but only until this weekend), and moved it into our room. We want Eli to sleep in the room with us, at least to start. He has never slept in a room alone before. I've been washing the baby clothes (such adorable little outfits), and there is a load in the dryer right now. I've hung the 18 month clothes in his closet. Tomorrow, I'll take the clean and cute clothes and start packing them in ziploc bags (1 outfit + socks per bag!) for the 3rd trip. (Thanks again to Lori for that great tip!)

By the end of this weekend, I'll have all the packing stuff removed from his room and into the guest room. Then I'll be ready to take a picture of his new and improved room, just in time for court next week. (And also to post in the blog!)

Just to keep life interesting, our heater decided to stop working this week! We think it's the thermostat. The repairman is coming Monday morning, bright and early. We're hoping it's just the thermostat, and nothing more serious. Thankfully this didn't happen while we were in Russia, or even worse, after we bring Eli home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

news about our boy

God blessed us today with some news about our sweet Eli. M. and L., another family with our agency, were in Moscow a few days ago for their court trip. They went to the orphanage on Sunday. They asked about Eli, so they could pass along some news. They were allowed to see him! He has grown a little and his curly hair is a little longer. He is crawling much better than last month. She said he is fast now! He can sit up on his own now (he was a little unsteady when we were there.) The best news of all is that he is healthy. I was so relieved to hear that.

I did some packing today, and I also worked in Eli's room. I hung his clothes in his closet, and I put his toys in the toy box that my sister brought me. I sorted through the stuff I had stacked on the twin bed in his room, and now I have all the stuff for the 3rd trip together. It's starting to look like a baby will be living here soon! Very exciting! We see our sweet Snuggle Bunny in less than 2 weeks, and if all goes as planned, we take custody in less than a month!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

visas

Our passports arrived today from the Russian Consulate in NY! Now we have dual entry visas for trips 2 & 3! We looked them over, and everything looked fine, which was a relief. We paid for 6-10 day processing and got them back in about a week, which was great.

Only 10 more days to wait and then we'll finally be on our way! The packing officially starts tomorrow!

Monday, March 17, 2008

time with the girls

The last few days have been quite busy, and that has thankfully helped to pass the time. We leave for Moscow in less than 2 weeks now!

My sister and her son (my most adorable 3 year old nephew) have been at my mom's, visiting during her spring break. Saturday, R & I had dinner with them at my mom's. Then yesterday, M. left my nephew with our mom, and then we went to see one of our other sisters. The three sisters had not been together, just us girls, in a few years, since before my nephew arrived, and it was great! We had girl time! We shopped until we dropped! We went to AC Moore (craft store), and I got little canvas tote bags for our caregiver gifts and some pretty gift wrap and ribbon for our other gifts. We went to Swoosie's, and M. got some treats for my nephew's Easter basket, and the cutest black and white stuffed bunny. We went to Off Broadway Shoes, and M. found some adorable little spring shoes. We went to Whole Foods, then had dinner, then on to Target, and I got some final items for trips 2 and 3. Then we went to Kohl's!

M. and I spent the night at A.'s house, so we had a girls only slumber party! This morning, we all slept in, and had a great time just hanging out talking. Then we had lunch (yummy Greek food) and finally M. and I arrived back at my mom's about 4:30 this afternoon. That was the longest M. had ever spent away from her son, and I know it felt strange to her.

I really enjoyed being able to spend some time with them!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

a little bit closer

We got some more things checked off our list, and that felt good. Yesterday, we finished buying gifts for the caregivers. We decided to do treat bags with regional food items. We also got some treats for Irina. Then we went to Radio Shack and bought a 25 foot network cable. This will give us more choices of where to sit in the apartment while we're on the internet!

Last night, we had dinner with R's mom, and she gave us the cutest ABC bedtime book for Eli. It has wonderful illustrations, and I can't wait to read it to him!

Today, I finished our taxes. I had really been putting it off. I was worried that we would owe, and our budget is already stretched to the absolute limit. We'll be getting a refund! God continues to take care of us, and we are so grateful.

We are really missing our little guy. After reading there has been chicken pox in one of the other orphanages, we hope he is healthy. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

3 weeks

We leave for Moscow in 3 weeks. It's hard to believe. The days are still passing very slowly, and it feels more like 3 months before we get back on the plane.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

adorable outfits

My mom came by this afternoon with THE CUTEST outfits for Eli! I can't wait to see him wearing all these. He will look so adorable! (Thanks, Mama!)



Wednesday, March 5, 2008

checking off the list

I was able to check off some things on the to do list today. We sent our visa applications to the Russian Consulate in NY. I put the pictures in our photo album for court. I also mailed a greeting card request to the White House. Hopefully, we'll receive a card signed by the President to commemorate his new citizenship. I thought it would be a neat item for his baby book. From our Congressman's website, I ordered a flag that will be flown over the US Capitol on the day he becomes a citizen. Right now, I'm interested in anything that celebrates his arrival in the US!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

confirmed

We now have flights and apartments reserved for both trips, and we also received our invitation to travel, so we can send our visa applications to the consulate in NY later this week. After waiting for the last few weeks, it felt great to get all that accomplished.

We'll be staying in the Smolenskaya district of Moscow. After being across the street from the Casino on the last trip, we going for something a little more residential and with better views this time. On our 2nd trip, we'll have a fabulous view of the Moscow River. On the 3rd trip, we'll be overlooking a courtyard with trees. I will enjoy that more.

Less than a month now - only 26 days - until we see our Eli again!

Monday, March 3, 2008

YAY!

On the emotional roller coaster that is international adoption, we are back up again! We got our court date today - April 2! This was a little earlier than we thought it was going to be, so we are happy. (Our God is great!) I was so anxious about getting our court date today, that I only slept about 2 hours last night, but now I feel so much better having a date and a plan, and especially knowing exactly when we're going to see our little Snuggle Bunny again!

So I've spent the afternoon trying to make all the arrangements. We are not staying during the 10 day waiting period, so we will be making 2 more trips. I booked our 2nd flight, and I just emailed the travel agent to confirm our 3rd flight. Originally, we were hoping to have 3 seats on the flight back with Eli, but it's just too expensive, so we're going to just hold him on our laps and suffer through it. Otherwise, our flights should be ok. We're flying Delta from Atlanta on both trips.

I contacted Peace Travel about the 2 apartments we wanted, and we should receive confirmation tomorrow. I also faxed the form to Peace Travel for our visa support/invitation to travel. We'll be doing a dual entry tourist visa.

So our dates will be:
2nd trip - leave March 29, arrive in Moscow Sunday morning March 30, visit Eli on April 1, court on April 2, fly home Thursday April 3.

3rd trip - leave April 12, arrive in Moscow Sunday morning April 13, take custody of Eli on April 14 (can't wait!), fly home as a family on April 22 (Eli will become a citizen on my aunt's birthday!) Because our 10 day waiting period is over on Monday, this last trip will be a little longer than we originally thought. We'll end up staying in Moscow for 9 nights on this trip, instead of 6.

I'm so relieved to have actually started booking the flights and apartments. Now it feels real. Now we know exactly when he will be with us and when we will be bringing him home.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

notes from our 1st trip

Today's sermon was interesting. Our pastor talked about how sometimes we don't know why things happen. Sometimes all we know is Jesus. Because right now, there seems to be no good explanation for our court date delay, yes, I felt like he was talking to me.

This post is a little overdue, since we've been home for 2 weeks now (seems like months), but since some of you are about to travel on your 1st trip (Kar, Denise, and Becky!), I thought I'd mention what worked for us.

We did not eat out while we were there. We fixed meals in the apartment instead. I have an allergy to tree nuts, so restaurants can be a problem. But, it turns out, by the time we got back to the apartment in the evening, after spending hours in the car, we were drained and tired, and didn't feel like going back out in the cold to search for food anyway! Katia took us to the grocery store twice, once Sunday right after we arrived, and again on Thursday. We bought bread, cheese, and meat for sandwiches in the car, as well as milk and eggs. R got a microwave dinner that he said was ok. Some kind of shepherd's pie type thing. We brought from home: boil in the bag brown rice, soup, easy Mac, chicken & tuna in the pouches, and peanut butter. We also brought protein bars and granola for our time in the car. We tried to eat protein, so we would have the energy to get through the day, and that worked well. Moscow restaurants can be very expensive, so we ended up saving some $.

things I wish I had taken:
~ I forgot to follow Rob's advice and bring a long network cable. The modem was on 1 side of the room, and the available outlet was on the other. Not convenient. Next trip I'm definitely taking the 25 ft cable he recommended!

~ short sleeve shirt
It was warm in the apartment. I'm cold natured, and even I was warm. Definitely taking one on the next trip.

~ hat
I used the hood on my jacket instead, but then I had no peripheral vision. I could only see in front of me, which was annoying when I was trying to look around and see the sights. I felt like a turtle!

~ something mindless to read, like a magazine
In the apartment, we had Turner Classic Movies, the Hallmark channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, CNN, and BBC World. Not much to watch when I just wanted to unwind. We ended up watching CNN a lot, but that reminded me too much of all the hours we spent in the airport!

things I could have skipped:
~ one little bottle of hand sanitizer would have been enough. Dede mentioned this too.

~ small bottle of dish soap
The apartment had both dish soap and laundry detergent.

~ sunglasses
Anton's car had tinted windows, and the sun didn't shine that much while we were there.

~ pillowcases
I thought it would be nice to have something from home, but the pillows were square, and our rectangular cases didn't fit!

things I was glad that I had:
~ sink stopper
There wasn't one in the apartment.

~ big fuzzy comfy socks to wear at night

~ yoga pants to lounge in at night

~ washcloths
I brought 4. There were none in the apartment. They were nice to have to wash my face. I also took one to the orphanage, because Eli was drooling a lot. And he also spit up on me one of the days we were there.

~ shout wipes

~ tea and folger's coffee singles

~ my laptop
We took it with us, and I wrote emails and blog entries in the car on the way back from the orphanage. It was a good way to pass the time, and I was able to write while everything was still fresh in my mind. I wrote a long journal entry every day, with lots of details. I wrote more than I posted as blog entries, because some of the details and feelings I didn't want to share publicly, but they are now saved for Eli to read when he is older. There's no way I could have captured all the details if I had waited until we returned home to write it.

~ airborne
I took Lori's advice and used it on the plane, as well as 2 days after we arrived. I didn't get sick, even though people behind us on the plane seemed to be coughing a lot.

~ silk long underwear bottoms
Wore them the last 2 days we were there because the weather turned colder, and we were glad we had them. Right after we arrived, we went to Red Square to do a little sightseeing, and we weren't wearing them. The cold air just seemed to cut through our pants, straight to our skin. I remembered what Rob had said about that, so we wore them on Thursday, when we did the rest of our sightseeing, and we were more comfortable. They were thin enough that I didn't feel too warm when we were inside. I didn't wear them in the apartment though!

~ thank you cards
We used them when we paid our driver and translator at the end of the week. I got long skinny ones at Target, so the US dollars would fit inside without having to be folded. We wrote a note inside each, thanking them for taking such good care of us during the week.

~ board books for Eli
We had the "Touch & Feel Farm" book and another board book, and he seemed to enjoy those the most. It was something we could do while he was sitting in my lap, since that's really what he wanted to do. He wasn't as interested in playing with toys on the floor.

~ blanket for Eli
We slept with it so it would have our scent, and then we left it with him on the last day, in hopes that they would put it in his crib.

~ thinner sweaters
Each day, I wore a long sleeve shirt with a thin/medium weight sweater, and I was very comfortable. A heavy bulky sweater would not have worked as well.

Another tip:
Register your trip with the US State Dept., so the US Embassy knows you are there, in case of emergency. It wasn't required, but gave us a little extra peace of mind.

We're so happy for those who are traveling to meet their precious babies soon!